Advocates for criminal justice reform as it concerns low-level drug offenders in the Georgia city were given reason to be hopeful earlier this week when the Atlanta City Council moved legislation that would ease penalties for marijuana possession forward for a vote.
Back in April, the decriminalization of marijuana was taken into consideration, but the prospects of cutting fines and jail time were punted without a vote, as it was determined that police, judges and school officials hadn't been given the opportunity to provide their input on the matter. On Tuesday, September 26, Atlanta City Councilman and mayoral hopeful Kwanza Hall reintroduced the legislation and the Council's Public Safety Panel granted an October 2 date for it to be voted on, and potentially signed into law by incumbent Mayor Kasim Reed.
Under Hall's plan, the threat of six months in jail for possession of an ounce or less would be slashed, and the $1,000 fine locals currently face would be cut down to $75. The argument for decriminalization maintains that law enforcement resources would be better suited to address violent crimes and that it would ultimately ease a burden on taxpayers. Many also point to the racial disparity regarding who is impacted by the law, with Black citizens making up 92 percent of those arrested for possession.